Versions of this sermon were preached in Upton 22/4/18 Hanley Castle 226/18, Hanley Swan & Welland 18/8/18, The Hook 26/8/18

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Mark 1:9-20

A few months ago a vicar I know retired and there was a bit of a party and celebration of his life. And he took the chance to remind us of the time in his life when the penny really dropped for him about Jesus. He’d grown up in Christian home, drifted at university, distracted by career and sport and booze. And one day he felt God challenging him – saying,

“if you really believe I’m here, then it’s time to start acting like it. I’m fully committed to you, why aren’t you more committed to me?

And that challenge set him thinking – What can I do to grow in my faith?

Looking around the room – There are lots of people here at different stages, In their journey into God.Some are well along the road, Others not so far – just taking the first steps even. And some may not be on the journey at all. Some of course need help on the journey. Ivy can’t go anywhere herself yet, But her parents and godparents have committed themselves today to making that journey with and for her.

So today I want to use our Bible reading, to help us think what it is to go deeper into God, what it is to take a step along the journey.

You see, faith isn’t like a light switch with an on-off button. It’s more like a dimmer switch, where we start off dim but there are things we can do to turn the brightness up.

So let’s start with the picture of Jesus’ own baptism, in our bible reading, and we’ll start in v10,

“Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water”

Mark 1:10

Yes – it’s a baptism. Very appropriate for today. But why was Jesus baptised? You see, Jesus was completely without sin, so why did he ask to be baptised?

 Well it was one of his ways of identifying with us,  of demonstrating his humanity. Because everything else that happens at his baptism, emphasises that he’s something more than human!

Look what happens next, V10,  

“he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.”

And then his Father speaks from heaven, v11,  

You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.

We all love to be affirmed by our dad! But there’s something even better going on here. This is God the Father’s way of declaring, that his Son Jesus, Is THE SON OF GOD. He’s the Son of God in the sense of being a chip off the old block. Made of the same stuff.

He’s far more than just a man. Jesus is both fully human and fully God.  How that works is beyond my pay grade, but the implications are enormous…

You see, sometimes people say God feels distant and unknowable, well that’s when we need to take a much closer look at Jesus. Because the God of the Bible cuts across that distant and unknowable stuff and drops his Son right into our laps so we can know him up close and personal.

But how do we do that? Well the encounter with the fishermen Simon and Andrew is meant to show us how. What does Jesus say to them? “Come follow me” and they do.

I once knew a man who was terrified of vicars because he was worried he’d get zapped with a mind control ray just like Simon and Andrew must have done here. It does seem a bit strange they drop everything and follow Jesus doesn’t it?

And yet Jesus has been travelling round Galilee proclaiming the good news of God. And we know from the other gospels that Simon and Andrew went to some of those gigs. So this isn’t the first time they’ve met Jesus, but it is the time they finally made a decision to go deeper. It’s the time they chose to turn the dimmer switch up.

And I reckon there are four things that Simon and Andrew and the others do here that show us what it really means to be committed to going deeper into God and it’s been my prayer as I’ve been preparing this that God might challenge each of us about one of these four things. So why don’t you see which one is for you today.

Our first characteristic is:

1)Followers of Jesus believe the good news.

Jesus said, v15, “Repent and believe the good news.” You can’t be a follower of Jesus without believing the good news, the basic truths of the gospel message.

Ben and Emma – you’ve made promises today to bring Ivy up within that truth. And there’s nothing more important.

You see God made us for relationship with him, but we rejected his love. And as a result all our relationships are broken. Our relationship with: creation, with each other, and most importantly with God. In that state of brokenness we’re destined to be cut off from God forever

But that doesn’t mean he’s stopped loving us. So he sent Jesus into the world to be our rescuer, to die on the cross for us to pay the price of fixing the brokenness,  and to rise from death to bring us new life forever.

That’s the good news.  We were cut off from God the source of all life, but through Jesus we can be reconnected. But do we all believe that? How much do we believe it?

 I won’t ask you to share your answer, but if you had to put it on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is “I don’t believe any of it” and  10 is “I believe and can recite the 39 articles and all the historic creeds blindfold”, how much do you believe the good news? Why not give yourself a number on the scale?

Now I’m going to challenge you –  what would it take for you to increase your score by one? To turn that dimmer switch up from a 5 to a 6 for example? Why not commit some time this week to doing that?

Let’s look at our second characteristic.

2)Followers of Jesus want to spend time with him.

“Come follow me” is all about committing time to going deeper into God through his son Jesus. In Jesus day it was done very directly. Simon and Andrew sat at Jesus’ feet and listen to him preaching, asked him questions,  brought him their worries.

Today we can still do that – but it’s a little different – we hear God speak through the Bible and preaching.And we speak back to him in prayer.

And that all takes time. Will we give it? Followers of Jesus want to spend time with him…So again – why not give yourself a score from 0 to 10 on how you’re doing in spending time with Jesus. 0 is “Just be glad I’m here today vicar,” and 10 is “I Never think of anything else.” Now I’m going to challenge you – what would it take for you to increase your score by one?  To turn that dimmer switch up from a 3 to a 4 for example? Why not commit some time this week  to doing that, and make it a new habit?

Let’s look at our third characteristic.

3)Followers of Jesus serve the mission of Jesus

When Jesus saves someone,  he doesn’t just save them from sin and death, he saves them for something. For a mission.Jesus said to Simon and Andrew in v17,“I will send you out to fish for people”.

That was their mission. He has one for each of us. A purpose. A reason for being alive.

You see the reason God reached out to you with the good news is because he loves you and wants you to pass on the good news about that love to the people you can reach for him. Sometimes that’s done verbally, sometimes it’s done practically, but it’s all the same mission.

So again let me ask you – are you serving the mission of Jesus? Why not give yourself a score from 0 to 10, where 0 is “I’m just serving myself” and 10 is “Point me at the mission field and let me loose.” And again I’m going to challenge you – what would it take for you to increase your score by one? To turn that dimmer switch up from a 6 to a 7 for example? Why not commit some time this week to doing that? And keep doing it.

Final characteristic:

4) Followers of Jesus put him first in everything.

Do you notice how each of our fisherman had to pay a price for following Jesus?

Simon and Andrew ran a fishing business, and v18, the left their nets to follow Jesus.  So they put their careers on hold to get to know Jesus better.Think of the impact of that on their families. We know Simon was married-  Because he has a mother in law who turns up sick later in this chapter of Mark. I wonder what made her sick? Maybe she was hysterical that her son-in-law had just abandoned the family business to go off with Jesus? I’m just speculating there.

And v20, look at what James and John’s had to do. They’re stood by the lake with their dad Zebedee. Following Jesus meant abandoning Dad. In that culture nothing mattered more than family loyalty. Nothing except God himself.

That’s the cost of following Jesus. And the more committed we are, the higher the cost. At home. At work. At play. Are we prepared to pay the price to put Jesus first in everything?

If that sounds like a hard thing to ask – Do remember Jesus promise which comes later in Mark:

“no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age:”

Mark 10:29

So again why not give yourself a score out of 10, where 0 is “Nothing matters less to me than Jesus” and 10 is “Nothing matters more to me than Jesus.”And again I’m going to challenge you – what would it take for you to increase your score by one? To turn that dimmer switch up from a 8 to a 9 for example? Why not commit some time this week to doing that? And keep doing it.

Someone once said to me,

I don’t want to be committed to Jesus, I just want to be involved.

What’s the difference between involvement and commitment? Think of a good cooked breakfast. The chicken is involved. The pig is committed.

So when it comes to going deeper into God – I wonder which you want to be? It’s my prayer that we’d all be a little less chicken and a little more pig.

Let’s pray.

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